Is evolution a lie?

Honesty and an open mind are critical to science. You have to let the data tell you what to think and not the other way around. If you start out expecting x, and you only accept data that confirms x, you’re not a scientist, you’re a politician.

When it comes to the theory of evolution, alas, the last thing most people do is think about it with an open mind. They usually start with that patchwork collection of English translations of Latin translations of ancient Middle Eastern Hebrew writings known as the Bible. Which is odd, because the Bible is very clearly not a science textbook. Read any part of it and you’ll quickly discover the people who wrote it thought the Earth was flat and circled by the sun. Some theologians will try to tell you that no, the Bible authors weren’t really saying the sun went round the Earth or the Earth was flat, they were being metaphorical or some such, but that’s just balderdash so far as I can see. Last time I read any part of it, the book unmistakably said the Earth has corners and ends (“the ends of the earth” etc.) and Joshua stopped the sun in its tracks, and that is unmistakably wrong.

Now I’m not saying that proves the Bible does or does not offer useful religious/moral insights or what have you; that’s a whole different debate. But it does prove what any idiot could have figured out anyway, which is that the Bible is not a science textbook. You won’t find the Laws of Thermodynamics in there, and if Jesus spent any time talking about covalent bonding and molecular orbital theory his disciples forgot to mention it.

So let’s leave aside the Bible for a minute because it’s not a science textbook, it’s a religious text, and frankly it has nothing to do with the history of life. Let’s just rid ourselves of any and all preconceived notions and ask ourselves: where did the species we see today come from? what do we know? and let’s keep this as simple as we can, because I think a lot of the time people lose sight of the forest for the trees, so to speak.

Well, for starters we see that life used to be a lot simpler than it is today. If you go back a couple billion years all you have is single-celled organisms. As you fast forward, new organisms enter the fossil record while other ones die out and disappear. And almost always we find the new organisms that appear in the fossil record are similar to other ones living about the same time but a little bit different. Which is odd, and sort of suggestive.

And if we look around us at what we see today, we find that populations change over time. Insects become resistant to pesticides. Viruses develop the ability to infect new species. Bacteria develop new genes that give them the ability to resist drugs, break down industrial chemicals, or take advantage of conditions in a lab experiment. Sometimes we even see a population of animals develop a new structure their ancestors didn’t have right before our very eyes, or we see a new species emerge that can’t interbreed with the old. New genes, new species, new traits: somehow life is changing across generations.

What’s the most logical way to make sense of all this? Maybe there’s a higher power (Jesus, your mom, the Buddha, a scary race of space aliens, pick whichever you prefer) that has been periodically creating and destroying species. Maybe this higher power sits down every few million years or so and says, “hmmm…I’m kind of bored…let’s create a few new species and make them look a lot like the ones I already created, but a little bit different. And maybe I’ll destroy a few other species while I’m at it.” But why exactly would this higher power do that?

It would make a lot more sense to think about this process of slow change we see going on around us. We see life changing. We’ve seen new genes, new traits and new species emerge. (I linked to a few examples, and there’s plenty of others.) So if this is happening now, it must have been happening in the past. And if life was changing slowly over time in the past the same way it is now, then the patterns we see in the fossil record would make a lot of sense. A lot more sense than the Higher Power that creates and destroys new species every few million years for reasons unknown.

This is kind of the big-picture version of the theory of evolution. There’s a lot of other evidence we could talk about (why does human chromosome 2 look so remarkably like two chimp chromosomes stitched together, for example, or why are there fossils of marsupials and warm-weather plants in Antarctica), but I want to keep this simple so I’ll leave it there. And if you think about it with an open mind, it’s difficult to avoid realizing it makes sense. I do chemistry for a living, not biology, so this is not my bailiwick, but it’s painfully obvious to me that evolution is a good explanation for what we see around us. As I said before (and will say again, because Creationists will almost never acknowledge this) — we’ve seen evolution happen. We’ve seen new genes emerge in lab experiments and in the wild. We’ve seen new species crop up (not often, but then it usually takes a while, and we’ve only been studying nature that closely for a few centuries now). These are not brand-new genes or species from scratch. Rather, they’re modified versions of existing genes and species. Because that’s how evolution works; it modifies what’s already there in a slow and messy way.

Creationists of course are not thinking about this with an open mind. They’re not asking does this theory make sense, they’re asking, how can I find an excuse to reject it? That’s become more and more difficult for them over the last fifty years or so, because we have more and more recorded instances of experiments or field observations where we can see evolution in action. So they usually fall back on one of several popular misconceptions.

1) Evolution can’t create new information.

That’s kind of odd, because we’ve seen it do exactly that. Again, there are now multiple well-known experiments where we’ve seen new genes evolve. The Lenski experiment (link above) is one of them; in this one, e. coli bacteria evolved a new gene that enabled them to use citrate even when oxygen was present. The Barry Hall experiment is another; in this experiment, Hall deleted the gene e. coli needed to digest lactose, and lo and behold, the bacteria evolved the ability to digest lactose all over again. Nylon-eating bacteria are another cool example where a population of bacteria evolved not one but several new genes found nowhere else in Nature that gave them the ability to break down byproducts of nylon manufacture (see link above). The number of antibiotic resistance genes we run across has been steadily increasing, and in many cases we can clearly trace where they came from (modification of an existing gene to make a new one). There are also a growing number of examples where we can easily trace how a particular gene evolved, like the antifreeze protein in Antarctic icefish.

Sometimes Creationists will try to sidestep the issue here by quibbling over what “information” is (since it has a definition in information theory that’s different from the everyday definition). That’s just a stupid semantic waste of time. Evolution of new genes is new “information” no matter which definition you use.

2) Microevolution can happen but macroevolution can’t.

Again, we’ve seen new genes, new traits and new species evolve. If that’s not macroevolution, what do you mean by “macroevolution”? How exactly do you explain the pattern of change over time in the fossil record? Why do you believe that macroevolution “can’t happen”, and what is the magical barrier that prevents it from happening?

3) Evolution says life came from nothing, and that doesn’t make any sense.

You’re right, that doesn’t make any sense. The theory of evolution is not about where life came from. We still don’t know how the first living organisms came into existence or where they came from, although there’s plenty of people working to figure out how that happened. The theory of evolution is not about how the first living organisms came into existence; it’s about what happened afterwards, and about how one species became many over time.

4) Believing in evolution takes just as much faith as believing in creation.

Well, no. It doesn’t take much faith to believe that a process that you’ve seen happening can happen.

5) Some features of living organisms are so complicated they could not have developed through a step-by-step process.

Not true that we know of. The examples Creationists usually like are the blood clotting cascade, the bacterial flagellum and the immune system. But in each and every one of these cases, evolutionary biologists have proposed a series of steps whereby that system could have evolved — and there are other possible pathways you can think of. We can’t see how these systems actually DID evolve because the fossil record doesn’t preserve biochemical stuff unfortunately. But again, we know that new species, genes and traits evolve, we know from the fossil record that this process has been happening as long as life has been around, we see bizarre genetic similarities between closely related organisms, and that’s why evolution is a better way to explain the origin of these biochemical pathways than the alternative proposed by I.D. advocates — the mysterious Higher Power that intervenes periodically to create and destroy new species just for fun. (And seems to do a pretty crappy job. The human genome is littered with “broken genes” that have been rendered inactive by mutations and serve no useful purpose.)

6) Deleterious mutations accumulate in populations over time, therefore all populations of organisms on Earth are gradually deteriorating. Evolution is regressive, not progressive and all species are headed for eventual extinction.

This argument comes from a book by John Sanford at one time of Cornell University; I believe the title is “Genetic Entropy” or some such. It’s popular in Creationist circles but kind of a joke everywhere else, because it’s sort of embarrassing how someone like Sanford, the inventor of the gene gun, could write something so obviously wrong.

Sanford argued that minor deleterious mutations are more common than any other kind, and that natural selection cannot effectively remove them from the gene pool since their effect on fitness, taken individually, is too small. Therefore they will accumulate over time, become very common or”fixed” in the population through random events and the genetic quality of a population will gradually deteriorate, dooming all populations to eventual extinction. Which, to Sanford, clearly implies that The Lord created life as we know it 6,000 years ago. (Never mind that the fossil record shows life has been around for a much longer period of time.) Sanford then opines that perhaps this gradual deterioration explains why Biblical figures like Father Abraham lived to the ripe old age of 800 or whatever.

The problem with this argument is obvious and it’s all around you. Look at cockroaches. Or bacteria. Or rabbits. Or viruses. These are organisms that reproduce much faster than humans. In the case of bacteria, they’ve been through millions of generations over the course of recent recorded history. If populations were really all deteriorating thanks to accumulated deleterious mutations like Sanford claims, bacteria would all be extinct by now. But they’re not. For the most part they’re doing better than ever. So clearly Sanford is wrong, and you don’t even need to know any population genetics to figure that out.

Why would a geneticist make such an obviously flawed argument? Well, Sanford is a born again Christian with an axe to grind. When it comes to evolution, he isn’t doing science, he’s doing politics. He already knows what kind of answer he wants to get, and he’s going to torture the data until it talks.

If you want to overthrow the theory of evolution, you need to come up with an alternate hypothesis that explains the pattern of change in the fossil record, the observed distribution of species and the change we see happening around us right now, and that hypothesis has to make sense. It has to be consistent with what we see. Otherwise you are just doing politics and wasting everybody’s time. And the whole problem for Creationists is that they have to stick to the literal word of the Bible, they’ve nailed their flag to the mast, so to speak, and they’re stuck trying to defend that hopeless flood story in Genesis. (Watching Creationists try to explain how Noah got all the animals on his boat and where all the water came from is entertaining in a sad kind of way.) So they’re stuck doing politics. That’s why they resort to slander and claim they are being persecuted, that evolution is a lie or a conspiracy cooked up by The International Mafia of Science, like some surreal version of Goodfellas with hit men who double as bloodthirsty grad students.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Whether you believe in a Higher Power or not, we can at least agree on one thing: if there is a Higher Power, it’s probably very smart, and presumably it knows all about evolution because it created that process. Presumably it would want you to think for yourself, and it’s not going to stick you in burning sulfur just because you were audacious enough to accept what you see and keep an open mind.

So keep an open mind. And think about it.

49 thoughts on “Is evolution a lie?

  1. This blog is an embarrassment. You are performing the same type of uneducated, whimsical science that you are condemning religious people for. You are taking bits and pieces of what you’ve heard without doing any real research into the topic. Your definition of macroevolution is inherently flawed. I’ll quote an article on macroevolution from the University of California, Berkley website, “Macroevolution generally refers to evolution above the species level. So instead of focusing on an individual beetle species, a macroevolutionary lens might require that we zoom out on the tree of life, to assess the diversity of the entire beetle clade and its position on the tree. Macroevolution encompasses the grandest trends and transformations in evolution, such as the origin of mammals and the radiation of flowering plants. Macroevolutionary patterns are generally what we see when we look at the large-scale history of life.” It is not simply creation of new species, and it certainly has various and multiple different barriers that prevent it from happening. I suggest you do some research to determine what those problems are and explain instead how evolutionists have overcome those problems. You treat evolution much like most creationists treat their version of events. You blindly follow the people that you consider authority figures while never taking any initiative to do your own thinking and research. Thus is the failure of modern blogging practices. Anybody can give their opinion on something without the slightest accountability. You need to realize that people read these blogs and some will base their world views on the things that they read for better or for worse. I love the idea of writing your thoughts and opinions without regulation (that is what I am doing here, afterall), but I think that it is our obligation as bloggers and writers to do our diligence and provide our readers with well-researched work, not just witty summations (although they tend to be more read-worthy). I believe in educating our modern population, not feeding their prejudices and laziness. I don’t claim to be perfect, but I do wish that you and anyone who reads this would consider what I am saying. Words are very powerful and must be used with the utmost wisdom and restraint.

    • Whenever I talk to Creationists they play fast and loose with the word “macroevolution”. They usually use it to mean evolution of one “created kind” into another, and since neither they nor I have any idea what they mean by “created kind”, that’s not very helpful. They also argue there are “barriers” that prevent it from happening but they’re never very clear on what they think those barriers are. So please enlighten me. What are these “barriers” exactly?????

      Currently I work as an analytical chemist at a company working on designing new antibiotics to treat drug-resistant bacteria, so the evolution of antibiotic resistance is a problem I happen to know a little about, and to me it’s a very convincing example of evolution in action. I could talk about it at much greater length but I want to keep posts like this simple because I think a lot of the time people lose sight of the big picture, and if you look at the big picture it’s very difficult NOT to see that evolution makes a lot of sense.

      • First off, let me apologize for my use of words. I meant no disrespect to you. I just got a little carried away, I guess. I was merely trying to point out that we need to be more careful with presenting incomplete information.

        As far as barriers to macroevolution, there are a couple that jump to mind: predators and genetics. Macroevolution is caused by several things, including genetic drift, genetic mutations, and natural selective processes. It’s not hard to see that there could be a problem when transitioning between species. For example, how did animals grow wings to fly? Or how did animals transition from sea to land-based creatures? Sure, it’s easy to come up with several stages that the creatures must have gone through to get from one stage to another, but the intermediate steps is where we come across a problem. Genetics tells us that drastic mutations can be fatal. So, the changes would have to be very small. If the changes are small, then the predators come into play. An in-between species has a greater chance of weakness. This could lead the selective processes of nature to cull that species. Now, none of these things makes it impossible for macroevolution to occur, but these things must be taken into account when presenting the theory of evolution. It’s not all straight-forward.

        You are correct in saying that evolution makes a lot of sense, but that’s not enough. You need observations and experimentation to back up any theory. Because of the nature of evolution, we won’t be able to conclusively prove the theory for potentially millions of years. We will have to document one species gradually transforming into an entirely different species, on par with the evolution of a mammal from a non-mammal. Until that time comes, we need to be careful how we propagate the theory of evolution. It is still a work in progress, not because it doesn’t make sense, but because can’t be properly proven at this point in time. As I close, I’d like to point out something that always keeps me open-minded and sufficiently skeptical. If you look throughout history, scientists have consistently come up with theories that were not completely true. From Aristotle’s view of motion, to Ptolemy’s earth-centric view of the stars, to Newton’s theory of gravity, some of the most influential theories in history have been tweaked or thrown out completely. Even though we tend to think that we are less prone to error in our modern society, I think it’s important to remember that we are still mistake-prone creatures and we need to continue to search out the truth and challenge the status quo.

      • “If the changes are small, then the predators come into play. An in-between species has a greater chance of weakness. This could lead the selective processes of nature to cull that species.” – This shows you have an upside down view of evolution. There is no “in-between” species, every species has ancestors, and if it doesn’t go extinct it will have decendants. The “in-between” species will have evolved because it is *better* at being where it is than its ancestors, and good enough not being whiped out. The change you are talking about, one that leads to “culling” is a determinental mutation, and one that will not “cull that species”, but that individual.

        “Because of the nature of evolution, we won’t be able to conclusively prove the theory for potentially millions of years.” – Did you bother to read any of the examples linked from the article? Did you bother to read up on the current research on fossil evidence? I bet not. Because if you did, you’d realize that statement doesn’t make any sense.

      • By “in-between” species, I meant a species between not having wings and one having wings. There would be several different species come between for example a rat and a bat. A rat would not grow complete wings in one generation, that leap in genetics just isn’t feasible as far as we know. You are right about culling only the individual, but if the individuals don’t survive, then the species won’t. That’s all I meant to say.

        Looking at the fossil record is not enough to prove evolution correct. What the fossil record fails to provide is context. We can only look at what we find, but what we can’t know is how or why it got there. When we look at the past, especially as far back as the first signs of life in the fossil record, we will never know exactly what went on. That is why it will continue to be a theory until scientists have thoroughly documented evolution from one type of animal to another. Maybe drastic or wholesale mutations do occur, maybe evolution is a slower/faster process than we think, or maybe the earth is just a giant alien zoo (strange, but some people think that). Those questions won’t be properly answered, though, until we have some modern day evidence to back it up.

      • “By “in-between” species, I meant a species between not having wings and one having wings.” – Well, so many of these “in-between species” have been found, that it completely invalidates your theory (colloquial sense) of them being weaker or maladapted or something.

        “looking at the fossil record is not enough to prove evolution correct.” – Looking at the fossil record already gives overwhelming evidence. Luckily, we don’t have to rely on just the fossil record, there’s all kinds of experiments and observations that lead to the same conclusions. See the links in the main article above.

        “What the fossil record fails to provide is context. We can only look at what we find, but what we can’t know is how or why it got there.” – I’m not sure what you mean by this. Fossil evidence does not stop with some fossilised bones. The rock itself gives away clues to the environment, as do fossil plants, fossil remains of other animals in the same rock (and hence the same period), etc. But also fossil stomach contents, fossil nesting sites, predator/prey fossilisation etc. gives a lot of clues as to how and where the ancient animal lived.

        “When we look at the past, especially as far back as the first signs of life” – It is really not necessary to know how life originated on Earth for evolution to be valid. But once there was life, there was evolution.

        “That is why it will continue to be a theory” – Do I really need to explain to you what scientists mean by “theory”??? Are you really using the word in its colloquial sense, instead of the scientific sense??? Are you that ignorant, or is this just pure dishonesty?

        “until scientists have thoroughly documented evolution from one type of animal to another” – They have, many, many times documented evolution from one “type” of animal to another, e.g. from a racoon-sized critter to a blue whale. Of course one can claim that that isn’t “type” enough, but that again would be pure intellectual dishonesty.

    • “First off, let me apologize for my use of words. I meant no disrespect to you. I just got a little carried away, I guess.”

      You opened off with “This blog is an embarrassment.” First off, if you want to debate someone, it’s always a good idea not to blatantly and generally insult them. Dislike this blog post? OK, but why generalize? His other post on Vitamin D, rat poison, etc. was great. It’ll just leave the writer on the defensive.

      And what did you mean by your first sentence OTHER than disrespect to the author? Either way…we all have to remember that we have our own unique perspective on all the knowledge we’ve accumulated and a unique way of expressing it. Let’s not jump to a BSD (big swinging dick) comment ESPECIALLY after the VERY points you make at the end of your comment: “Words are very powerful and must be used with the utmost wisdom and restraint.”

  2. Evolution is very real, it is a fact. I’m not sure if we should continue including the “Theory” into the name, because creationists and young people can get confused and thing that “it is only a theory, has not been proven”, just like General Relativity. I know that only in mathematics a real prove can be made, not in real live, but the uncertainty is so low, it is not worth speaking about it all the time.

    Also, evolution is not only a biological process (as it is a consequence of chemistry, being a consequence of physics, nature, logic), it is everywhere in the Universe. The are computational programs that in fact evolve. See this YouTube videos demonstrations (with IDs): aUiJ7_7VSaI or QRY7mEjbT8A

    • The actual URLs:


      There is also a very well done BBC documentary called “The Secret Life of Chaos (2010)” for those interested about chaos or evolution.

    • Yeah, there really are some Creationists who will argue that there has been quick “post-flood adaptation” (i.e. evolution) but they will carefully avoid using the word “evolution”. Evolution by any other name, I guess…

      • Having them explain why there aren’t any kangaroos in the Bible, and how they got to Australia (and didn’t stick around elsewhere when on their way) is also rather fun.

    • “Evolution is more impossible than the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Headless Horseman” – You mean, “Evolution is a slightly more difficult concept to get your head around than TF, SC and HH”. Which may be true, as the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are explainable to children (and probably the Headless Horseman too, but I’d concider it child abuse to explain *that* to children), and evolution may be a little more difficult, as there’s an additional need to explain genetics and stuff (though my own children of 6 and 8 grasp the basics just fine). I wonder why you didn’t mention “God” in that list, as it surely belongs there, along with other creations of the human imagination.

  3. “Honesty and an open mind are critical to science.” Indeed. But while it may be true that most creationists “…usually start with…the Bible,” I know of several well-educated people who were strong evolutionists, and one or two of them were atheists, too, who looked at the arguments for evolution and realized they didn’t hold up to scientific standards, and only after that came to trust in the Bible, not because it’s a science book, but because it reveals the supernatural origins of the Earth, the universe, etc.
    When Darwin put together borrowed ideas and rhetorical devices to make evolution respectable for the young scientists eager to expand science to include another (in addition to uniformitarian geology) naturalistic (atheists’ playground) forensic attempt to peer into the past instead of studying the current workings of nature (science’s proper realm), it appeared that science had pretty much cornered all the important questions and found that the universe was a pretty ordinary, everyday place on all scales and for all of time, if there was any limit to the age of the universe. In fact, they didn’t even know that the Milky Way was just one of many galaxies, and a few anomalies in physics were about to lead into a revolution that first lead to Einstein’s puzzling relativistic physics, and then the quantum weirdness that even Einstein had trouble accepting. Then it became apparent that the universe had a definite beginning (the popular estimates for when have changed drastically in the decades that I’ve been keeping an eye on them), and just recently we’ve added the great mysteries of black holes, dark matter and dark energy. What have I left out besides the missing antimatter question and Guth’s rather ad hoc early inflation? Oh yes, and geology has been forced to accept more and larger and more catastrophic changes over the passing years. And some theories about the origin of the universe suggest ours is just one of a practically infinite number of others…
    How does this all relate to evolution? Well, it all depends on our assurance that NOW we know enough about how nature works and can assume that it has always… well, for as long as, well… you know… it needs to, that we can say, Since this works like this now, THEN this evidence must mean X. The problem is that we’ve learned the universe isn’t such a simple, ordinary place, and the sheer amount of stuff that we don’t know much at all about is far more than the ordinary matter that we have studied. So essentially, all bets are off when it comes to the past. Or at least it should be, if we’re really honest and open-minded and not clinging to something that preserves the desire to have a demon- (and God-, angel-, etc.-) free world (and life). Or just not rocking the boat in a way that might get us laughed at. Or fired.
    At any rate, looking at things openly and honestly doesn’t mean just mocking the Bible while accepting everything about evolution. Science requires being very strict with one’s own theory, or being open to others who are doubters. Unfortunately, from Darwin on, the establishment of belief in evolution has taken the form of: Look at these problems for other possibilities: obviously they are unresolvable! SO that’s the end of thinking about them. Now let’s look at challenges to evolution — they don’t seem totally insurmountable to me. Hmmm, think, think, think… why, here’s a fancy clever explanation, so it must be possible after all, so it’s practically a proven fact. What’s the matter with you, can’t you see how obvious it is?
    Think I’m overlooking all the evidence? Well, let’s start at the beginning… OH wait, evolutionists don’t like to start at the beginning, because “that’s not part of the theory.” Well, I’m sorry, but if you’re going to say that natural forces alone are responsible for microbes being ancestors of men, you’d better be able to show how those microbes got here in the first place. What’s your response to that? “Honestly, and keeping an open mind, it does seem to …” OH, wait, no, it’s “Hang on, we’re working on that…” Yeah, for “over the last fifty years or so” now, with brilliant minds trying to reproduce a naturally spontaneous event. Hmmmm.
    Okay, how about that fossil pattern? Simple bacteria at the bottom, more complex forms at the top, check. But that’s just the part that fits. How about all the major differences in body types appearing in the same rock layer, without any sign of how their ancestors split up? How about new sets of variations on vertebrates also popping up with wide differences after one or two posited ancestral forms: the three or four major types of fish all pop up together, after a few early forms the amphibians appear in a panoply of diverse examples; the 40 or so major lineages of modern birds and about an equal number of modern mammals all have roots early in the Cenozoic, but few if any indicators of connections to earlier common ancestors. There’s no sign at all of gradual development from something else for several unique forms of gliding lizards, flying pterosaurs, or bats.
    And evolution observed in action today? An honest, open-minded researcher would cast a skeptical eye on such claims and discover how they are wanting, not simply and faithfully hold them up as a shield to deflect challenges and prevent any doubts from arising. Are the “new” changes involved producing greater complexity? After all, that’s the big plus from the fossil record, that’s what evolution is all about — explaining how something as marvelously complex as a bat or a human could come to exist without something at least as complex and wonderful existing first. What all is involved in a “cecal valve”? Does it have various diverse new parts, or could it combine with other observed mutations to make something with interacting parts? Or is it just a narrowing in the existing parts of the gut? Are there other lizards in the same family that have cecal valves? Is it possible that epigenetic factors allow a “pseudogene” to retain them as inactive possible variations that are activated in response to environmental factors? Likewise for the various studies of bacteria – how much might the “new” abilities depend on the fact that ancestors may have possessed them, as evidenced by similar types that do now?
    The fact is, it has NOT become harder for people to believe in creation or at least have doubts about evolution “over the last fifty years or so,” which should be obvious by the fact that it is within that period that creationism has taken on a new life, and sprouted ID as a branch for people who do NOT care much about what the Bible says, but simply can’t accept the grand story of evolutionism.

    • As far as where did the first bacteria/living organisms come from…I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. You could say they were created by agents unknown, you could say they were imported from another planet, you could say they arose by means of some abiogenetic process…those are all fair claims to make at the moment, because we simply don’t know. The hypothesis that we can test is that they arose via some abiogenetic process, and people have been trying to test that by means of experiments like Urey-Miller as I’m sure you are aware. IMHO, anyone who says we DO know where life came from frankly needs to read a little more about origin of life research and some of the challenges involved. But you know, this is how science works…when we don’t know something, we try to figure it out through observation and experiment. If we knew everything already, there would be no point in doing more science.

      The only reason I mention the Bible is because for many people in America it clearly is THE reason they object to evolution. It’s interesting to note that if you take surveys of Buddhists, for example, the vast majority believe the theory of evolution is a good explanation for the origin of modern species, but with Christians not so, and the Bible is very clearly the reason why. Which is odd, because the account of creation given in the Bible is completely untenable. It makes no sense at all based on what we see. The Flood story alone is enough to throw it out of the running.

      A cecal valve is a muscle sphincter that can slow the food down on its way through the intestines — that way, gut microbes have more time to break down cellulose. As far as which genes are involved…we don’t know that yet, because so far as I know the genome of this lizard has not been sequenced. No, the ancestral population didn’t have them, so this is a new structure that evolved in these lizards — there’s no other way to explain that, unless you want to argue it was a miracle or something. That IS evolution of a new structure, which of course is what Creationists are always trying to tell me can’t happen.

      As far as the bacterial studies I mentioned — the nylon-eating bacteria, for example — no, this is not reactivation of abilities present in their ancestors or something. With the nylon-eating bacteria, we can get a good idea where the “nylon-eating” genes came from by comparing them with the genomes of other strains of the same bacteria. They’re existing genes that were duplicated and modified. Again, that’s how evolution works — you take an existing gene and modify it. Evolution doesn’t create anything from scratch. (Which goes back to that question of where did the first living organisms come from…which again we don’t know.) The same is true with the Lennski long-term e. coli evolution experiment.

      • “The hypothesis that we can test is that they arose via some abiogenetic process, and people have been trying to test that by means of experiments like Urey-Miller as I’m sure you are aware.”
        Yes, when I was in school, that was still recent enough that we were given the impression that it had nearly created life in a test tube and perhaps in 20 years or so the great original event would be reproduced in the lab. Well, I now know that the experiment set up some conditions that weren’t at all likely in nature, and besides the chemical mix used is no longer considered to reflect Earth’s early atmosphere. I’d say that five or six decades of failure by highly intelligent researchers is a strong indication that inanimate processes alone are insufficient. At least, it seems to me that favoring the idea that intelligent input was required should be the logical position until the test comes out showing otherwise. What phenomenon produces dynamically complex yet organized objects, other than by biological reproduction? Human creativity is the only one I know, and even then only with a good deal of accumulated knowledge and intelligence. Living things are even more complex, being totally autonomous and self-reproducing. I’m sticking with a higher intelligence as the source of the first life. As you say, Buddhists and others don’t seem to be putting forward any of their deities, so until Someone Else puts in a serious claim, I’ll stick with the Biblical God, too. The exact nature of the account and the rest of the Bible being a “whole ‘nother can o’ worms,” for the sake of argument I’ll just leave it at that.
        I actually know about the cecal valve and Lenski’s bacteria, I was just putting forth questions I’ve already asked and answered. You don’t seem to have gotten the gist of them. Indeed, the immediate, known ancestors in both cases did not have the new features, but as you say, “other strains of the same bacteria” do have the feature. Therefore, it’s not unlikely that a common ancestor also had the ability to eat nylon, and a simple mutation (or a few) destroyed that ability, so a was likewise not improbable to restore it. Same with Lenski’s bacteria that eat citrate when oxygen is present as well as when it isn’t, which they could do before. The copied sequence apparently replaced a lost control “gene” or promoter region.
        The “rapidly evolved” (demonstration of designed adaptability?) lizards “are genetically indistinguishable from lizards from the source population,” indicating again that some control sequence or pseudogene from a more-or-less distant ancestor was re-activated. Other lizards in the same family have cecal valves. The muscles that form the cecal valve are not new, just enlarged versions of muscles already present.
        All of these changes have happened quite rapidly, but I haven’t heard that further significant changes have combined with them. So I think these changes look more like environmentally-triggered adaptations via restoration of variations present in an earlier gene pool.

      • David,

        You are misrepresenting what I said — either because you didn’t understand or for some other reason. I’m going to be charitable and assume the former. So let me explain this again and I want to be as clear as possible.

        The nylon-eating bacteria can break down byproducts of nylon manufacture that were not found in nature until the 1930s, so no, you don’t find other bacteria out there that can break down these byproducts. The genes this strain of bacteria use to break down the nylon byproducts are not found anywhere else in nature that we know of. They are not “reactivation” of some gene that already existed, they are brand-new genes. Period. That’s a fact. We know that, because we can take the genome of the nylon-eating bacteria and compare it to closely-related strains of the same species, and they don’t have these genes.

        If you take the DNA sequence of these genes and compare it to the genome of closely related strains that can’t break down nylon byproducts to figure out where the gene might have come from, you find they look somewhat like several other stretches of DNA/genes that serve an entirely different purpose. In other words, an existing region of DNA got duplicated then altered by mutations so that the new protein it now encoded has the ability to catalyze the breakdown of these nylon byproducts. Again, these are entirely new genes. We don’t find them anywhere else, and there are no other strains of this bacteria that can do this. I don’t know how to be any clearer than that.

        About the bacteria in the Lenski experiment. E. coli has a citrate/succinate transporter that is not active in the presence of oxygen because of how its expression is regulated. The population of bacteria in Lenski’s lab underwent a series of mutations. At one point the stretch of DNA that encodes the citrate transporter together with two stretches of DNA on either side of it was duplicated and the duplicate copy ended up in a different region of the genome next to another stretch of DNA, with the result that you now have a new “fusion gene” created by fusing two regions of DNA not formerly found together that is active under different conditions than the original. Further mutations made this new gene even more active so that the strain of E. coli carrying it could rapidly take up citrate even when oxygen was present. Again, there are no other strains of E. coli that have this new “fusion gene”, and no other strains that can use citrate when oxygen is present, in fact that’s a defining characteristic of the species. This is a new gene and a new trait for E. coli. There is no “reactivation” of some ancestral gene present here.

        The Lensik experiment and the nylon-eating bacteria are pretty remarkable and to any open-minded person they demonstrate that evolution can give rise to new genes. But you are refusing to accept that because you already know what you believe, therefore no evidence can change your mind, and you’re going to get as creative as you have to in your effort to explain away the facts. You don’t care about the science…you just want to believe evolution can’t happen. Well, more power to you. But you shouldn’t be surprised that scientists don’t find your beliefs persuasive.

        From what I understand about the lizards, when you say “genetically indistinguishable” you mean based on mtDNA analysis, not nuclear DNA. These cecal valves were not found either in the ancestral population or in other lizards, so this is not “reactivation” of an ancestral trait because the ancestors of this population didn’t have the trait. You can’t “reactivate” something that isn’t there. Again, seems to me you’ve already decided what you want to believe here…

        About the origin of life. You say the God of the Bible is the best explanation because at present we don’t know how life originated, ergo Jesus. But that’s not an argument either. The Hindu cosmology (from what little I know about it, admittedly) actually corresponds much more closely to what we know about the history of the Earth and the Universe than the Biblical cosmology. The Bible posits that the Earth is only 6-10K years old, which we know is not true, whereas Hindus believe that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old. So if your beliefs were really based on logic you would convert to Hinduism and worship the creator god Brahma, because Hinduism more closely matches the reality of what we know about the universe. I have a feeling though that that’s not going to happen…

      • “I’d say that five or six decades of failure by highly intelligent researchers is a strong indication that inanimate processes alone are insufficient.” – No, that’s not even close to being a “strong indication”. For one, as far as I know there’s not “five or six decades” of experiments going on. There were some experiments here and there, but you make it sound like it’s a continuous ongoing effort, which it isn’t. Secondly, the idea that if, after fifty years of research, we haven’t found the answer, the answer is “higher intelligence” is silly. Nature had millions of years to experiment, those fifty years are nothing.

        “At least, it seems to me that favoring the idea that intelligent input was required should be the logical position until the test comes out showing otherwise.” – I disagree: since there is no reason to assume intelligence anywhere, the default position is “no intelligence”.

        “What phenomenon produces dynamically complex yet organized objects, other than by biological reproduction? Human creativity is the only one I know” – The fact that you can’t fathom the idea that life arose spontaneously doesn’t make it a wrong idea. Also, comparing with human creativity is a bit strange, as you just acknowledged yourself that human creativity isn’t enough to create life.

        “I’m sticking with a higher intelligence as the source of the first life.” – Sure you are. Doesn’t make it true though.

        “herefore, it’s not unlikely that a common ancestor also had the ability to eat nylon, and a simple mutation (or a few) destroyed that ability, so a was likewise not improbable to restore it.” – Yes it is very unlikely, for two reasons: 1) nylon is a human invention. No bacteria had ever to digest nylon. Therefore nylon eating capabilities have not been present. Or do you really believe that the common ancestor of all bacteria could digest every and all conveivable chemical? 2) As was explained in the article, the nylon eating was *not* a restoration of something that was there earlier. It was a mutation in a duplicated gene. A gene duplicated. Then changed. That’s evolution, not “restoration”.

        “The copied sequence apparently replaced a lost control “gene” or promoter region.” – If something is lost and then replaced by something else, that’s still plain evolution.

        “indicating again that some control sequence or pseudogene from a more-or-less distant ancestor was re-activated.” – indicating again that you are totally clueless as to how evolution operates. And also, that you are creating evidence out of thin air, reasoning backwards to fit your preconceived ideas of how things should work. There is *no* relative of the lizard that has these folds, so there’s *no* reason to assume that an ancestor did have them. Also, if you knew anything about evolution, you’d know that traits lost rarely if ever get reactivated, since mutations in non-coding portions of the genome are much higher, as they (the mutations) are typically not detrimental, and since the chance that exactly the same mutation or mutations happen backwards is incredibly small (so small that it doesn’t happen on the grand scale you are imagining).

        “So I think these changes look more like environmentally-triggered adaptations via restoration of variations present in an earlier gene pool.” – Like I explained above, “restoration” is *not* how evolution works, and has – as opposed to e.g. evolution via gene duplication and modification of one of the duplicated genes – never been demonstrated. You are an ID’er, probably a creationist?, and you don’t bother to read up on actual science, but instead either mindlessly pass on the ID-crap that you find on the internet, or actually come up with this uneducated tripe yourself (in which case I would suggest you do read up on actual science, before coming up with more of it).

    • “I know of several well-educated people who were strong evolutionists, and one or two of them were atheists, too, who looked at the arguments for evolution and realized they didn’t hold up to scientific standards, and only after that came to trust in the Bible” – I bet this is a lie. I bet what you mean to say is “I’ve read or heard somewhere a story about someone who was a scientist/evolutionist, but not any more”. And I bet it’s a false story. It’s the kind of tripe that circulates Christian/creationist circles, but have no origin in fact. Kinda like the Bible, for that matter.

      • “I bet this is a lie.”
        Dear me, how unkind, to call me a liar like that. Is it really so impossible for you to imagine such a thing could be true, or is it even such a threat to your mental security to think such a conversion would be possible? What I find truly incredible is your equation of scientist with evolutionist. Are you one of those who thinks that anybody who believes in creation can’t be a real scientist?
        Too bad it wasn’t a real bet. I wonder what you would have given me. I haven’t just read about these people, I’ve exchanged e-mails with them, and met one or two in person. You CAN read about some examples in the book _Persuaded by the Evidence_ by Jerry Bergman and Doug Sharp, available through Amazon as well as through the Creation Research Society and other creationist organizations. The book includes people who were Christian Theistic evolutionists, evolutionists who were converted to Christianity first and later became creationists, etc.
        I could talk about the false stories that have circulated in evolutionary circles, too.

        http://www.creationastronomy.com/about/
        Spike Psarris was previously an engineer in the United States’ military space program. He entered that program as an atheist and an evolutionist. He left it as a creationist and a Christian.

        Evidence News 14/12 – 6th June 2012
        … this author became a Christian after reading a science Text book by an Atheist who threw in a chapter on why there is no God and how stupid the Bible is. His arguments were like Dawkins’ arguments – completely irrational and they so annoyed this then non-Christian Editor, he picked up the Bible to see what it said. John Mackay started at Genesis which while it obviously contradicted the millions of years in his evolutionist head – it was neither irrational nor full of hatred etc. In fact it offered a personal relationship to the Creator which he accepted on His terms and that relationship still continues –which is why he has stayed a Christian. It’s also why he likes one other saying out of the Bible that really fits science …. “Test all things!” 1 Thess 5:21.

        http://creation.com/claire-s-testimony
        Embittered evolutionist becomes rejoicing ‘creation evangelist’
        The testimony of Claire S.,[1] provided to CMI–NZ April 2010
        Published: 8 June 2010

        Re: Former atheist?
        Friday, August 14, 2009 12:40 PM
        From: “Lee McCracken”

        Without a doubt, creation played a huge part in me turned from atheism to theism. Also, there was a lot of other factors that don’t really relate to creation as to why i believed God couldn’t exist, but it was the absurdity of accidental evolution that forced me to admit that God was real. If you have questions you want to ask for your book, i’d be happy to correspond with you. And of course, you can buy Transformed when it comes out to get the longer version, and then in a number of years, maybe i’ll write the full version.
        Yours, Lee

        On Fri, Aug 14, 2009 at 2:02 AM, Doug Sharp wrote:
        Lee’s story will become part of Transformed by the Evidence.
        Doug Sharp
        http://www.rae.org
        sharpdb@rae.org

        Dr Chris Cagan, a brilliant mathematician with two PhDs, and author of From Darwin to Design, was once a staunch atheist, who had been taught Christianity caused wars, the Salem witch trials, the Crusades and human misery. But beginning with a lecture by I.C.R., he learned that design and natural laws are too precise to happen by accident. Newton, the most brilliant scientist ever, believed in God.

        Review of “From Darwin to Design”
        by Dr. John S. Waldrip
        At the beginning of From Darwin to Design, the author says,

        “My father was Jewish, but we did not go to synagogue. I didn’t believe in the existence of God…I laughed at the Christians who tried to `witness’ to me. I thought their religion was fanatical, strange, and dangerous.”

        Dr. C. L. Cagan had earned a bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude), a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mathematics at UCLA. He had written guides in math and chemistry that were sold to students at UCLA for twenty years. But, as an atheist, he was “very unhappy and empty inside.” Thus begins Dr. Cagan’s fascinating account of his journey from atheism to faith in Christ.

        david.bump@att.net wrote:
        What? you were an atheist, too? I would like to hear how you were saved, and what role the creation/evolution question had in it one way or the other, especially Biblical young-Earth creation.

        From: Charter
        To: david.bump@att.net
        Subject: Re: my story
        Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2006 16:21:23 +0000
        Yes Sir. My testimony is at http://webpages.charter.net/rzuvich/testmony.htm
        Trust me, Creationism was EVERYTHING! But I know it was the Holy Spirit because Sergio Sanchez (guy who gave me the Henry Morris/Malcolm Bowedn books, said years later when I asked him how I was during the weeks I read the books said, “I don’t know Bob. All I remember is that you kept coming into work saying, ‘I can’t stop thinking about Jesus”. I told him Jesus wasn’t really IN the books he gave me. They were about paleontology, geology, physics, biology, astronomy, genetics, math, etc. He said, “Yes I know. But that’s what you said.” Now THAT’S the Holy Spirit!
        His,
        Bob Z

      • You haven’t named a single scientist. So typical for a creationist to conflate anyone with a PhD with scientist.

      • Oh, dear, it appears Kilian has turned off replies. Well, guess it’s his blog, he can have the last word if he wants. But so much for being “open.”
        I didn’t figure that the genomes had been entirely compared or anything like that, just that there wasn’t any big differences. Have any attempts been made to interbreed these lizards with the ancestral population from the mainland? Or repeating the experiment — was this a one time fluke, or would it happen again, and about as rapidly? Both of these experiments would be very informative. Note that while the researchers believe that a genetic change is suggested by the evidence, “further studies investigating the potential role of phenotypic plasticity and/or maternal effects in the divergence between populations are needed.”
        Also… ah, I shouldn’t try to reply to him through you. Besides, I don’t care to argue with someone who cheats while considering himself SO superior, open, and honest. To back that up: Note that I said: ““I know of several well-educated people who were strong evolutionists, and one or two of them were atheists, too, who looked at the arguments for evolution and realized they didn’t hold up to scientific standards, and only after that came to trust in the Bible” and he said “I bet this is a lie.” After sharing several cases of “well-educated people who were strong evolutionists… who looked at the arguments for evolution and realized they didn’t hold up…” He replies “You haven’t named a single scientist. So typical for a creationist to conflate anyone with a PhD with scientist.” Well, I didn’t say they were scientists, so I didn’t do any conflation. Clearly, Kilian just hates creationists and would rather twist reality than see them as anything but lying non-scientists. I suppose whatever credentials I might cite — teaching science in a secular university? publishing papers in non-creationist science journals? Participating in historical scientific endeavors or developing new imaging technologies? (Oh, I know the response to that last one, “He’s not a scientists, he’s a technician.”) — they’d all be ruled out on some technical point, or perhaps just because “nobody who believes in creation can be a TRUE Scotsm… err, scientist.”

      • “Oh, dear, it appears Kilian has turned off replies. Well, guess it’s his blog” – Errr… no, they aren’t and it isn’t. It seems this blog only allows one-level deep comments, and this is not my blog.

        “Have any attempts been made to interbreed these lizards with the ancestral population from the mainland? Or repeating the experiment — was this a one time fluke, or would it happen again, and about as rapidly?” – No attempts, but why should there be? Noone is claiming that a different species evolved, just that a new *feature* evolved. As for repeating it, again, why should anyone want that? It seems you really do not understand the way evolution and basic genetic processes work.

        “Both of these experiments would be very informative.” – No, they wouldn’t at all, as there wouldn’t possibly an outcome that would be surprising.

        ““further studies investigating the potential role of phenotypic plasticity and/or maternal effects in the divergence between populations are needed.”” – Indeed, they are proper researchers, always being cautious with their conclusions.

        “Well, I didn’t say they were scientists, so I didn’t do any conflation.” – Ok, my bad. I assumed that by “evolutionist” you meant a scientist studying evolution. Now it seems it’s just name-calling on your side.

        ““nobody who believes in creation can be a TRUE Scotsm… err, scientist.”” – Indeed. Evolution is one of these things that is so overwhelmingly supported by evidence, that one needn’t take anyone serious who doesn’t believe in it.

      • Note that they have only sampled *mitochondrial* DNA: “Genetic mitochondrial DNA analyses indicate that the lizards currently on Pod Mrčaru are indeed P. sicula and are genetically indistinguishable from lizards from the source population”. With “genetically indistinguishable” they mean “as far as the mitochondrial is concerned”. They did not analyze other DNA, and that’s why they conclude with “Although the presence of cecal valves and large heads in hatchlings and juveniles suggests a genetic basis for these differences, further studies investigating the potential role of phenotypic plasticity and/or maternal effects in the divergence between populations are needed.”

  4. While there are certainly some Atheist or Agnostics with advanced degrees that change their mind, disbelieving the validity of evolution, the trend is by far in the other direction. Your god of the gaps argument, David, is pitiful. It most certainly is not science, it’s fantasy nonsense.

  5. David

    “I didn’t figure that the genomes had been entirely compared or anything like that, just that there wasn’t any big differences.” When it comes to nuclear DNA, you don’t know. I don’t know. The relevant scientists probably still don’t know. Thus you seem to be clutching at straws.

  6. Block quote:
    “Have any attempts been made to interbreed these lizards with the ancestral population from the mainland? Or repeating the experiment — was this a one time fluke, or would it happen again, and about as rapidly?” – No attempts, but why should there be? Noone is claiming that a different species evolved, just that a new *feature* evolved. As for repeating it, again, why should anyone want that? It seems you really do not understand the way evolution and basic genetic processes work.

    “Both of these experiments would be very informative.” – No, they wouldn’t at all, as there wouldn’t possibly an outcome that would be surprising.

    ““further studies investigating the potential role of phenotypic plasticity and/or maternal effects in the divergence between populations are needed.”” – Indeed, they are proper researchers, always being cautious with their conclusions.
    End block quote

    BTW, glad to know the replies were cut off just due to the way the provider has set up the way the blog works.

    I believe that interbreeding lizards and attempting to reproduce the experiment would be informative precisely because they would help elucidate the possibility of phenotypic plasticity and/or maternal effects being involved, among other things. Also, anyone who really knows how science works understands that doing experiments isn’t about whether or not the outcome might be surprising. Null results and results that are exactly the same are part of the process of exploring and confirming or refuting previous reports. The Wright brothers were stymied until they got suspicious and built their own wind tunnel to test data that they had regarded as already settled.

    “Now it seems it’s just name-calling on your side.”
    How’s that? Since when does “evolutionist” mean “a scientist studying evolution” rather than “someone who believes in evolution”?

  7. QUOTE/ There is *no* relative of the lizard that has these folds, so there’s *no* reason to assume that an ancestor did have them. Also, if you knew anything about evolution, you’d know that traits lost rarely if ever get reactivated, …/END QUOTE

    Again, citing from: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/12/4792.full
    “… cecal valves, a structure previously unreported for this species and rare in this family and scleroglossan lizards in general …”
    Seems to me it’s worth checking to see if the that fact that this feature does appear (rarely) in this particular family of lizards has some connection to its appearance in this particular species. Note, too, that scientifically we can’t say that the species has never had members with cecal valves, but as it is phrased here, it is “previously unreported.” That’s the danger of inductive inference — no matter how many white swans we observe, we can’t be sure there isn’t a black swan somewhere. The phenotypic plasticity possibility mentioned earlier means that this may be a trick the lizards have had all along, but they haven’t been forced to live under the same conditions before, that we know of.

    BTW, the report says that “Total genomic DNA was extracted …” but as you noted, it was only mitochondrial DNA that was used for the comparison. Wonder if they’ve done the more extensive comparison

    “…you don’t bother to read up on actual science,…”
    Will you stop saying things about me that you don’t really know about, put me in a bad light, and aren’t true? I have been reading actual science, reports in Nature and PLoS Biology… and of course non-creationist popular science online news reports. It’s in all of those that I learned about mutational hotspots, gene cassettes, and reversals in “evolution”:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130308093424.htm
    Genetic Study of House Dust Mites Demonstrates Reversible Evolution

    From the LiveScience site:
    http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/070416_mite_sex.html
    “Tiny spider relatives have rediscovered the joy of sex, regaining the ability
    to mate after their arachnid ancestors lost it, …”

    http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001211

    Pancer, Z. _et al._, _Nature_ v. 430, 8 July 2004 pp. 174-180. (see “Another manifestation of GOD by Martin F. Flajnik on p. 157. GOD = Generation Of Diversity)

    “A is for adaptation” by Jef D. Boeke (Nature, v. 431, 23 Sept. 04, p. 408)
    “…unlike other viral RTs, is not needed for replication. Instead, its role seems to be to create vast diversity within a strictly circumscribed region of the bacteriophage genome.” … “two
    nearly identical sequences called the variable repeat (VR) and the tandem repeat (TR). TR
    provides an invariant master source of sequence information.” … “mutations …occur specifically at adenine residues by a process that is not yet understood.” … “So, this VR-TR-RT ‘cassette’ would maintain TR in a pristine state, while generating diversity in VR…remarkably, the diversity-generating system mutates only the adenine (A) bases in the TR…” …”it appears that the sole ‘purpose’ of the bacteriophage RT gene is to create sequence diversity” and that “similar cassettes occur in various bacteria and blue-green algae. These cassettes all consist of an RT gene and suitably oriented TR and VR sequences, one of which is mutated at the A residues relative to the other.”
    The research report is “Tropism switching in Bordetella bacteriophage defines a family of
    diversity-generating retroelements” by Doulatov et al., Nature, v. 431, 23 Sept. 04, p. 476.

    http://news.yahoo.com/ancient-tadpole-shrimp-not-living-fossil-study-says-120032895.html
    Ancient Tadpole Shrimp Not a Living Fossil, Study Says
    By Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer | LiveScience.com – Tue, Apr 2, 2013.
    …”Because they all look alike, assigning fossils to the correct species is a challenge. Some 250-million-year-old fossils were assigned to the living Triops cancriformis species, but the new research suggests this species actually evolved much more recently”
    (see: Mathers et al. (2013) Multiple global radiations in tadpole shrimps challenge the concept of ‘living fossils’. PeerJ 1:e62 http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.62)

    Science News: Vol. 156
    Sept. 4, 99, p. 151 “Threatened mothers have tougher offspring” —
    Radish plants and water fleas found to pass on increased defenses to
    offspring. The effect is NOT genetic/Lamarckian, although it produces
    a noticeable difference in morphology (larger “helmets” for daphnia,
    more spikes on radish leaves).

    http://www.nature.com/scitable/spotlight/epigenetics-26097411?nlp=53076710&nlpTrkUsp=20873093
    “Epigenetics”
    “…many epigenetic phenomena — differences in the traits of organisms (their phenotypes) that occur without any accompanying changes or mutations in genomic DNA sequences (their genotypes).”

  8. I appreciate your bravery, in posting the subject,I am not as well informed as some of you but here goes….MY comment:
    Consider a combination, our universe is composed of combinations, which by the way we have the ability to Discover. Interestingly enough, the number of digits on our hands, 0_9 their combinations explain the irrefutable invisible set of laws that we have DISCOVERED to form the “set ” that we call “The Laws of Physics”. Depending on this discovered, often reciprocal single set of laws cannot explain everything. (evolution for example) simply because it (the Laws of Physics) are only half of the combination required to create the universe. When we seek the other half of the “Universal Combination” we will see, Divine Revelation. A SERIES of irrefutable universal invisible laws (which are supported by the laws we discover), that we do NOT discover but are SHOWN. Interestingly enough the combined nine REVEALED lessons from Adam through Baha’ullah explain what science cannot discover. To address the discussion properly we need to see both sides of the combined set of laws that govern action in the universe from a perspective that allows us to see the whole object: neither group, Creationists or Evolutionists are correct both sets of invisible laws, physical and spiritual must be looked at together. We are created to evolve.
    Furthermore, the world of physical reality, (enabled by The laws of physics) is an artificial interconnected contrivance conceived by the Creator to enable us to evolve (when we look) to recognize HIM.
    Mankind in some form has always been on a planet formed to support an existence that enables discovery of the divine. The argument for or against either concept Creation or Evolution is pointless as they are a combination that cannot be separated. Complete understanding of the significance of this combination requires a third element; the ability to see Divine revelation as a unified set of similar lessons intended to move humanity forward according to their capacity to understand the combinations associated with both the physical and spiritual sets of laws. Claiming to be a scientist or a religion-ist is an equally pointless argument as one cannot be properly understood with out the other. When combined, they form an inseparable set. Science and Religion must agree, they are two parts of a whole. Arguing their differences will not produce the same results as seeking their similarities. Humanity has survived for a very, very long time by comparison and adaptation, using all available information, to find combinations that proved successful .

  9. I greatly enjoy reading scientific articles. Science subjects have always been my favorites in school, and post graduation I continue to study more independently.

    I’ve also spent years studying Biblical texts, with much curiosity, primarily about what the say in regard to certain intangible aspects of life science cannot observe.

    As one always seeking to keep an open mind and see where evidence may lead, I was thrilled to read your mention of such, then immediately after disappointment struck hands.

    First, you go into speaking on scientific subjects as if an expert (outside your personal field) and make some very inaccurate generalizations. You grossly misrepresent the Biblical texts as well.

    Science issues: Evolution is as good as fact – we agree. What you observe in your work, also known as micro-evolution, is well documented and all agree (even creationists).

    Extrapolation of such to grand species changes is another matter. We have not observed such, and no valid experimentation has verified Macro-evolutionary hypotheses. Not once. Nor abiogenesis.

    Saying you find it a logical inference to unobservable past is fine. Saying it is scientific fact is the opposite of having an open mind. It shows you have dogmatic belief in such as much as a creationist does about his ideas.

    The fossil record does not verify macro-evolution either. We do not see slow gradual changes leading to entirely new species. We see sudden appearance of new species and long gaps between.

    We still have no verified missing links. All past reports of such have turned out to be hoaxes.

    This does not mean evolution false. I support evolutionary theory. It means for macro-evolution and abiogenesis WE DON’T KNOW. To say we do, like it is fact, is blatant dishonesty, or delusional thinking (much like religious dogmatists).

    On the Bible, you show a great lack of knowing what it actually says in the original language. Have you studied the Hebrew texts? Have you asked Rabbis what it says? Or are you going by English translations with possible translation biases?

    Are you aware that Jewish Rabbis and sages believed from ancient times the Earth is spherical (and they got this idea from Torah)? Are you aware that about 800 years ago an oral tradition from ancient times was published by a Rabbi, and that they believed the Universe to have begun with a big bang, and to be 13.7 By old? They derived this from Torah and oral traditions passed from Moses through the sages of each generation.

    Are you aware that the Hebrew language is unlike any other language of man, having symbols that each can be a letter or number or both at the same time, and levels (4) of meaning for each letter (ancient sages could write entire books on the meaning of one letter or phrase), that in essence it is a language allowing for complex compression of data, so books worth of information may be coded in a small form?

    You apparently do not, based on simplistic statements you made.

    If you really are open minded, look deeper into such things before you claim to know what you are talking about.🙂

    • Hi Navar,

      It is good to see that at least you except observable changes in the genomes of organisms, and call it evolution. However, you seem to make an unfortunate arbitrary split between what you call “micro evolution” and “macro evolution”. Scientists do not make such a split, because it is not necessary to explain the observable nature (which includes fossils, as we can observe them). “Micro evolution” comprises small changes to an organisms. “Macro evolution” is just “micro evolution” repeated. Making the disinction and claiming lack of evidence is like making a distinction between “micro building” and “macro building”, the former being putting two bricks on top of each other, the latter being building a cathedral. Imagine that in the middle ages, when building a cathedral cost at least three to four generations, a person were to claim that only “micro building” exists, and that cathedrals sprang to life by divine intervention. An outside observer could point to an unfinished cathedral, and workers building it, but the person claimed that that was just “micro building”, and the work in progress would never lead to a cathedral, as that would be “macro building” a cathedral, something no-one had ever observed in a life time. That is basically what you are doing; just because humans live too short to observe speciation (a term that, biologically, is just as vague as “species” itself) you claim that “micro evolution” could never do that.

      You also mention abiogenesis. But abiogenesis lies outside, and before, evolution. Without it, evolution couldn’t have started, and abiogenesis by itself is not a form of evolution (or you must stretch the definition to simple chemical processes, something no scientist does). So let’s leave abiogenesis out of this discussion.

      Next, you talk about the lack of transitional forms (“missing links”). You claim that the fossil record does not show “macro evolution”, and that all we see is species appearing out of nothing, with gaps in between. I am not sure whether you are being willfully ingeneous here, or are just very ignorant about the current status of palaeoscientific research. In fact, many transitional forms have been found, e.g. we can reconstruct the “macro” evolution of whales perfectly from its earliest, racoon-like ancestor all the way to modern baleen whales. And that’s just a single example. For almost all modern groups of mammals we can trace their ancestry through gradual changes in the organisms found in the fossil records.

      To finish it off, you show not only lack of understanding of evolution, but also of linguistics, by claiming that “the Hebrew language is unlike any other language of man” and it “having symbols that each can be a letter or number or both at the same time, and levels”. I am aware that there is such a thing as gematria, but you are apparently not aware its origins lie in Assyria (and thus do not make Hebrew unique in that respect), and that such codes can be created in different languages too (there are Bible Codes that use the King James, for example).

      Closing, I would urge you to study modern scientific views of “macro” evolution, and all the evidence that modern science has found. Only then you can discuss it without looking ignorant, as you do now.

      • I’m quite aware of the science issues. It is important to differentiate things in science, and be very specific. Extrapolation of certain observable processes onto unobserved ones is far too common these days.

        So, I disagree respectfully with your conclusion about the micro/macro issue. Bacteria is just one example of why. We see evolutionary changes in fossil records ands labs today. We don’t see bacteria becoming something new. It may be different/varied bacteria, but bacteria nonetheless.

        Not separating micro and macro evolution causes confusion regarding what is observed and tested vs. what is speculation. Thus, it makes for bad science.

        Science by necessity must always start from a position of skepticism, for best potential of coming to accurate findings. Sadly, biological science related to Darwinian type worldview has changed this significantly. Today, if one does not go with consensus on such, despite much being based on philosophical induced speculations, instead of being considered open-minded and rightfully skeptical, they are often called fools.

        Regarding Hebrew, it is apparent you have a cursory knowledge, as you did not understand what I meant by the 4 levels of meaning or data compression in relation to such. This does not concern me (whether you care time know or not). My point was simple; the article assumes correct understanding without full knowledge, which contradicts the whole premise it begins with.

        I don’t know much about automobile engineering. Thus, it would be foolish to make dogmatic statements about such as if I did. Even sillier to argue with an actual expert in that field, along with something like, “A quick read of my Lexus manual makes is obvious that *insert uninformed simplification.”

        Here is what I would much like to see. Open discussion on topics of controversy without oversimplifications and insults used as rhetoric. That would foster more meaningful, and intelligent, dialogue.

      • Now, can you please list by name these “many transitional forms” you mentioned. I’ve looked high and low for them as have many others with Nothing to show for it.

      • I would never suggest real evidence be ignored by anyone. So, I’m not quite sure what to make of your reply other than you don’t understand what I previously wrote. Oh well.🙂

  10. I’ve not found a place online where I can ask evolution sceptics if evolution doesn’t work, why do genetic algorithms converge?

    I’ve become so fed up of the nonsense on Twitter about this subject, I wrote this script, & now ask if evolution doesn’t work, why does this script make a pattern emerge? http://wp.me/p4xFcv-1g

      • No,it won’t, and for several good reasons. 1) It is loaded with … intelligent design. 2) It has a fixed target. 3) It’s highly simplistic and not much like natural genetics and environmental conditions at all. 4) the pattern arises inevitably — the script is *designed* to reproduce the “environment” pattern. 5) the pattern is due to the positioning of individuals, not complex patterns arising within individuals. 6) Even the most complex patterns are merely static designs, whereas living things have many diverse parts organized into dynamic, interactive and interdependent systems,

  11. Dear Gallery, Boy I had to laugh at your article. You are an ignorant little mite, aren’t you?! Well, don’t feel bad, you are in “good” company.

  12. They didn’t think the world was flat, btw (Isaiah 40:22, etc.).
    Sorry if someone else already mentioned it!

    (Just stumbled upon your delightful Dear Atlantic/Antibiotic posting whilst warming up before heading into the lab. And then stumbled upon this one, coz BRR to the 450th googol infinity and back… and all that.)

    Cheers!
    Captain Sal

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